3G service on Mt. Everest lets climbers surf from the summit
Climbing Mt. Everest just got more convenient, now that mountaineers can surf the web and make video calls with 3G service. Image: CC NileGuide.com/Flickr

Mount Everest is now the world’s highest hotspot after a Swedish telecommunications company announced the launch of 3G service in Nepal. The chief executive of Ncell, a subsidiary of TeliaSonera, said the highest video call ever was made from the Mount Everest base camp Friday. The Nepal 3G network will allow climbers mobile Internet from the summit of Everest and bring 21st century telecommunications to one of the world’s poorest countries.

World’s highest 3G base station

Before 3G at Mount Everest, climbers had to use satellite phones to communicate with the outside world. Ncell has set up coverage with a series of eight 3G base stations. The highest is in the village of Gorakshep, near the Mount Everest base camp at 17,000 feet. For climbing adventurers, real time weather reports and emergency communications will be the most practical use of Everest 3G. But Ncell emphasized that for the first time locals will be able to surf the Web, send e-mail, and make calls at rates cheaper than satellite phones.

Communications on Everest

About 3,000 people have climbed Mt. Everest since Sir Edmund Hillary did it first in 1953. Back then climbers used runners to relay messages fromĀ  their expeditions to the nearest telegraph office. Veikka Gustafsson, a climber living in Nepal for years, told TeliaSonera that when he first came to the Himalayas, satellite phone equipment weighed more than 220 pounds. The China-facing slope of Mount Everest has had partial service provided by China Mobile since 2007, but coverage was voice only.

What 3G means for Nepal

Less than one-third of Nepal’s population can access telecommunication services. The jagged mountain terrain makes it difficult to build cellular networks and nearly impossible to build land-based networks. Commenting about the Everest 3G network, Gustafsson said:

“It’s hard for people in the Western world to even imagine what it means for people living in distant villages in valleys separated by high mountains when they now make their first phone call to relatives or are able to contact a doctor over the phone.”

Ncell has about 3.7 million subscribers in Nepal, a number that will rise now with 3G service. TeliaSonera plans to invest $100 million in Nepal to establish mobile coverage for 90 percent of the population by the end of 2011.

Sources

BBC News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11651509

Daily Tech: http://www.dailytech.com/Worlds+Highest+AboveWater+Peak+Everest+Gets+Internet+Access/article20026.htm

PC Magazine: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2371750,00.asp

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